Abby’s entries from late September and early October 1867 continue:
Thursday 26: Phenie went to Exeter to day. She is coming back in a week I believe.
Monday 30: Monday it rained very hard and at noon snow flakes were mixed with the rain.
Wednesday 2: Went up to Mrs. S. to bid the Goldsmiths good bye and good riddance. Eliza had some company and part of the evening I played with them.
Thursday 3: Met F. Taylor going up to school. Said he was coming down Sat. and play euchre with Mr. Eaton.
Saturday 5: Yesterday Louise went with G. Ray to get leaves. Got some dogwood and brought it to the house and to day my face is poisoned. I only looked at it.
While it is possible that Abby had a sensitivity to the flowering dogwood tree (cornus florida), it is much more likely that she was using an old-fashioned Americanism (1815 c. according to dictionary.com) for the plant that we now commonly call “poison sumac” – (toxicodrun vernix).
It’s too bad that Louise and Georgia Ray didn’t have access to the advice of Caroline Creevey in her “Harper’s Guide to Wild Flowers.” (which wasn’t published until 1912!). Mrs. Creevey describes the plant as “the most poisonous plant of our country and it possesses, moreover, the fatal gift of beauty, often alluring unsuspecting persons in the autumn to fill their arms with its brilliantly colored leaves. With the swamp maple, it adds, most of all plants, to the glory of the swamps. Insanity and even fatal results have been known to follow the handling of its branches. Many people are wholly immune to this plant’s evil effects, while others are poisoned simply by passing the shrub. “